Friday, September 23, 2011

The Bottom Line

When you stop and think about the design of a bicycle saddle its not hard to understand why they can be so darn uncomfortable. Saddles have to be fairly narrow so that they can be straddled between the legs without inhibiting the constant back and forth, up and down movement of the legs. At the same time they have to be wide enough to support our seat bones. Then consider all the variables of the human anatomy and you can see why saddle comfort is such a matter of individual preference. 

The strategies used to obtain a comfortable saddle vary from a plastic base covered with some sort of padding material to no base at all just leather stretched over a metal frame. 
WTB Speed She Comp

WTB Laser

Brooks Swallow 

To relieve perineal pressure saddle manufactures have added various types of cut outs.
Titanico Selle Anitomica

Selle SMP Strike

This concept is nothing new Brooks spoke about "the registered cut-out as a sure preventative for all perineal pressure" in there 1890 catalogue. Below are some photos of a safety bike with a wicker perineal cut-out.

Safety bike
close up of seat

Perineal pressure can be a huge problem for men and women, so back to the drawing board to come up with new shapes.

Moon Seat

Easy Seat

ISM Touring Saddle
ISM Adamo Saddle

A riders position has a lot to do with the type of saddle that will work best.  If you ride in a more aggressive leaned forward position the Adamo saddle above may be just the ticket. This saddle is becoming popular with triathletes and time trialist. 

 View Adiamo Saddle Video

For those that prefer a more upright position saddles that are wider with more padding and/or springs are usually more comfortable. Although padding can sometimes cause more perineal pressure. Leather saddles like Brooks rely on the hammock effect, nothing hard under the seat bones just a piece of leather that slowly conforms to your shape.
Brooks flyer

 Leather saddles require a break-in period which varies among brands and the saddle must be treated periodically with a leather conditioner which helps soften the leather and keep it from cracking. 

If none of these options help with your saddle issues I guess you can always go bent :)

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